We tweeted out sourced news that the Nationals were “in” on Patrick Corbin who is rated by most as the #1 available starting pitcher. The Nats were not previously tied to Corbin, but let’s face it, there are several teams who are interested in Corbin also which will make an acquisition into an auction and push the price almost certainly from five years to six. Count the Nationals in and don’t count them out. In addition, an interesting lefty bat is now available as the Marlins have DFA’d Derek Dietrich. Could the Nationals be interested in the versatile Marlin? Dietrich played five defensive positions in 2018, and could fill a void as the lefty bat who can play multiple positions and back-up Ryan Zimmerman.
For Dietrich, he is arbitration eligible in his second year, and MLBTR is projected a $4.8 million salary which make his a little less attractive to a cash-strapped team. However, if he is declared a free agent, a team could certainly pick him up for less. The rub on Dietrich is that his defense faltered in 2018 and most of that negative DRS came from his poor leftfield stats where he was a -7.8 UZR in 2018 where he mostly played. It was a sizable decline for the versatile Dietrich who was slightly above average at 2nd base in limited action and certainly serviceable at first base where he has been a “plus” defender in his career. With the negative defensive WAR coupled with Dietrich’s offensive struggles in Marlins Park, he amassed only a +0.8 WAR for the season on Fangraphs — but the secret sauce on Dietrich is he excelled on the road and especially in CitiField and Nats Park. In Washington, D.C., he slashed .308/.419/.423/.842 last year. The bad news is he was 3-25 in Atlanta.
Overall on the road, D.D. was over 200 points higher on his OPS compared to Marlins Park. His .290/.363/.496/.859 road stats look All-Star worthy. But you could drill down to other areas where he was good and bad. He had an increasing K rate which reached 25.1% last year and he batted only .216 with RISP which will frustrate the fans. On the good side, he batted .307 with a runner on first where he would take advantage of the 1st baseman holding the runner on-base and pepper the hole often moving up the runner. Dietrich is also a pest as any competitor knows as he has made it an art of leaning into inside pitches working 21 hit-by-pitches in 2018. He is the guy you hate when he is on the other team but love him when he is on your team. He is very much cut from that Chase Utley cloth where he plays hard and will grind out at-bats. He had a .977 OPS batting in the two-hole last year.
Who knows if Dietrich would even be on Mike Rizzo’s radar — but he should be. The Nats need a versatile lefty bat, but don’t think of Dietrich as a pinch-hitter as it just never worked for him even though his manager kept trying it over and over. He is a starter and could fill the void at 2nd base or 1st base quite nicely, and he is a clear case of playing to his positive analytics.
Patrick Corbin is a two-time All-Star who is a lefty top of the rotation pitcher, but also a Tommy John survivor. He had a great 2013 and then had to rehab from TJ surgery and worked himself back in 2018 to another fantastic season in his walk year where he had a 2.47 FIP, a 1.050 WHIP and a 3.15 ERA while finishing 5th in the Cy Young. The 29-year-old now projects as the #1 pitching free agent and has numerous suitors. He had 14 starts where he gave up 1-or-fewer runs, and 20 of his 33 starts he gave up 2-or-fewer runs. He did all of this while playing the hitter friendly confines in his home park in Arizona. Corbin as you would expect was one of the best road pitchers in baseball with a 2.80 ERA and with an extra rest was 9-1 on the season compared to his 2-6 record on regular rest. That is a great case of analytics there.
Corbin also pitched better against winning teams and owned the Dodgers holding them to a scant 0.90 ERA in 2018. The one area the Diamondbacks failed was with Corbin’s catcher. He clicked with Jeff Mathis and had a 1.83 ERA with him while with Alex Avila his ERA was 3.34. The sample sizes was 86 and 73 innings respectively so not exactly small sample sizes. Corbin’s money pitch is the slider that has wicked left to right movement dropping off the table. His changeup continues to be a work-in-progress and that is where he could improve if he got that pitch to a key part of his repertoire. Yes, there is always room for improvement.
What do you think?
There are plenty of reasons why Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo should be looking at Dietrich and Corbin. If both are used properly, they could be two very big assets for the Washington Nationals. Both are case studies in analytics. Some stats just stand out while others bewilder the common sense — but that is baseball — and that is why analytics are so important. Some teams play to their players strengths while others ignore it. A case study why Kurt Suzuki should not play 100 games at catcher for instance would be interesting if that was a reasonable line of demarcation. Suzuki had his best career results with the Braves where last year he started 83 games at catcher. Nothing is definitive on a magic number as those do not exist — but sometimes less is really more.
There was a reason the Milwaukee Brewers were a play away from heading to the World Series as a team that over-achieved where they used advanced statistics and shorter outings for their starting pitchers while relying on a beefed up bullpen. In the end and at the worst time, the bullpen just was not deep enough for all the wear and tear, and what worked for the 2015 Royals did not work for the 2018 Brewers in the critical Game 7 of the NLCS. Teams need good balance, and that is why you need versatile players, but most of all — put players in their best situations to succeed for themselves and the team.